Daily news summary

Visegrad Four journalists concerned about media freedom in their region

Journalists from the Visegrad Group states, comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, have expressed concern regarding media freedom in their respective countries. At a meeting in Prague, the editors-in-chief of leading dailies and weeklies in the region said politicians were trying to gain control of the public media, exert their influence and restrict media freedom. Gradually, we are seeing the independence of the media undermined by political and economic means, journalists said in a joint statement following their Prague meeting. They stressed the importance of media freedom for democracy in the region.

Czech Radio reports on abuse of Czech visa system in Ukraine

Czech Radio has reported on widespread abuse of the Czech visa system in Ukraine. Its team of investigative reporters said the issuing of visas for Ukrainian workers had turned into a booming business for agents and middlemen. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it is aware of the problem and is working to tackle it. In view of record low unemployment in the Czech Republic, the government has been under pressure from Czech firms to double the number of visa requests processed monthly in order to bring more workers into the country faster. According to Czech Radio, Ukrainian workers have no choice but to use the services of middlemen if they want to get on the electronic lists of visa applicants which is filled for months in advance.

Czech on trial for wanting to join IS has schizoid personality disorder

A twenty-two-year-old Czech who is standing trial after trying to join Islamic State, suffers from a schizoid personality disorder and was not able to judge the outcome of his actions, psychiatric experts testified in court on Thursday. They said the man should be receiving psychiatric care. He himself told the court earlier that he did not want to kill anyone in Syria, but wanted to join IS so that he could be killed in battle. He said he converted to Islam three or four years ago. He is the first Czech to face charges of trying to join a terrorist group. The hearing has been adjourned until February 24.

Czech Republic assures Iraq of continued support

The Czech Republic has assured Iraq of its continued commitment in the fight against Islamic State militants and its involvement in helping to rebuild the country. During a visit to Prague by the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Al-Jaafari the two sides signed a memorandum on closer cooperation and discussed areas where the Czech Republic could provide assistance, such as helping to clear war zones of mines and rebuild residential areas. Under a new project future Iraqi diplomats will get schooling in Prague. The Czech Republic currently has a field hospital in Iraq, has a mission training pilots, and supplies munitions for the Czech L-159 fighters in Iraq. Czech companies are also involved in trying to rebuild the local oil industry.

Strong rouble brings back Russian tourists

The strong rouble is bringing Russian tourists back to the Czech Republic, Czech public television reported. Interest is traditionally highest in the Czech capital and some of the country’s famous spa resorts. Some Russian tourist agencies currently report a 60 percent increase in the number of tourists booking trips to Prague. Russian tourists appreciate the fact that they generally do not have a problem communicating in their native language, the high quality of services available and the fact that the country is perceived as a safe tourist destination.

Construction of passive houses on the rise

The number of passive houses built in the Czech Republic in 2016 is estimated at between 600 and 700, making up roughly 4.5 percent of the overall number of houses constructed that year, according to the Centre for Passive Housing. According to the centre the numbers are not precise since they are only based on requests for subsidies for passive houses. Passive houses first appeared in the Czech Republic ten years ago and their numbers have been on the rise since the government approved a subsidies programme for environmentally friendly housing projects. The trend caught on from neighbouring Germany, where there are over 40, 000 passive houses registered.

Weather forecast

Friday should be cloudy to overcast with scattered snow or sleet showers and day temperatures between -1 and 3 degrees Celsius.